First Things First
My name is Natalia Marfil. This isn’t my first time attending college, but I’m still a freshman and entirely new to UHCL. Even though I’m not a fish fresh out of high school, I’m still going to constantly get lost inside the Bayou Building. (Everything at every turn looks just the same!) Thankfully, I’ve already met some wonderful people, both in class and through the Hawk Leadership Institute. We can get lost together. UHCL promises to offer an exciting and enriching college experience, and I am more than eager to share my crazy journey with all of you. Stick around, I might even say something worthwhile.
From a Cougar to a Hawk
High school graduation seems like it was ages ago, doesn’t it? Before our caps even hit the ground on their way back down, we were already in college orientation, selecting classes, trying to figure out how Blackboard works, and wondering why textbooks are so expensive. I remember thinking I had everything figured out then: I’d get a bachelor’s in Creative Writing at the main campus of the University of Houston, have the college experience of a lifetime side by side with my high school sweetheart, and become a famous novelist with a plethora of puppies to call my children. Well, now I’ve switched to being a biology major at UHCL. I’m happily single and plan on becoming a veterinarian. (The puppies plan remains the same.) Life takes so many unexpected turns; sometimes, it’s really just a matter of learning to run with it. Expect the unexpected and deal.
High school teachers and parents usually take it upon themselves to drill a very particular statement into our brains: “College is important.” It is, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t as dire or as intense as they make it out to be. What your major is right now, what you got on that one essay, what you missed on that one class you fell asleep in — it doesn’t define you or your future. The reality is that you don’t know what’s going to happen after you walk that stage four
or eight or however many years from now. You don’t even know what’s going to happen in a year, a semester or a month. Life changes, minds change and you change. You grow up, you switch majors and you find new interests. That’s what college is all about – finding yourself and letting yourself flourish. Then you go out into the real world and repeat that process; this time with new knowledge and experiences to back you up. It took me a while to unlearn the lie that you have to decide your entire future at 18. You know what? I sleep a lot better now.
Being a Cougar was fun, I suppose. I got into the Houston Zoo for free, I could feed very friendly squirrels on my way to class and I played with therapy dogs during finals week. But was I happy? Probably not. The campus is huge, the classes are composed of literally hundreds of students, the professors didn’t know (nor cared to know) my name, and all in all I was just a bit lonely. I felt like a tiny goldfish trying to make it big in an ocean full of sharks. UH-Clear Lake, on the other hand, feels a hundred times smaller (and might actually be, but I’m not that great at math). Some people might not be so fond of a small campus, but to me it feels a lot homier. All of my classes are in one building, so I can say goodbye to running across campus under the burning Houston sun. Everyone seems to know each other, or knows someone who knows them. Making friends seems like less of a challenge and more of an inevitability here. Most importantly to me, though, the entire faculty seems so much more committed to their students. Thanks to the fact that the student body is relatively small, professors and tutors can actually take the time to get to know their students and work with their needs so that they not just pass a class, but actually succeed and reach their academic goals. Sure, main campus had its tutoring programs and whatnot, but they always felt more like last option resources than anything else. I also love how everyone normalizes counseling/therapy and is so open about it. No one here seems to shy away from the fact that anxiety, depression and overall crippling stress is abundant in our demographic. It only makes sense for the university itself to address the issue, so I’m more than happy that UHCL strives to do just that for its students.
It’s because of this, and more, that I feel in my bones that UHCL is not going to be just another school I reluctantly attend, but a university and community that I will proudly be able to call my new home. So yeah. Being a Cougar was fun, but I bet being a Hawk is going to be exceptional.